1999 a "positive" year for Italian environment

Ronchi delivers upbeat assessment of progress, signals tax incentives to encourage environment industry

Italy's prime minister Massimo D'Alema and environment minister Edo Ronchi delivered positive assessments of Italy's environmental achievements in 1999 on Wednesday, as the environment ministry published its annual report on spending and activities. Mr D'Alema told journalists that 2000 presented an "opportunity" for modernisation and growth which should aim to promote employment and improve citizens' quality of life.

Presenting his ministry's 1999 report in Rome, Mr Ronchi said that the prime minister's strategy of integrating the "restoration" of the Italian landscape within environmental policy would form a cornerstone of a revamped ministry of the environment and territorial conservation. Last year's demolition of well-known illegal buildings on Italy's scenic Amalfi coast, south of Naples, showed that change was afoot, Mr Ronchi commented.

Overall spending by the environment ministry in 1999 amounted to more than euros 1bn (IL2.5 trillion), of which most had been invested. These figures confirmed that Italy's environmental policy was "developing" and had by and large "overcome initial obstacles," Mr Ronchi said.

While progress had been made in 1999 on many fronts, notably transport policy and environmental monitoring, much remained to be done, with traffic congestion and pollution and waste remaining the knottiest problems, the report said.

Low investment in technological innovation remained one of Italy's weak points. To overcome this as well as inefficiency in the public administration, legislation was needed to create tax incentives to firms, at least in the short-term. "The environment industry's turnover is only 20% of Germany's. If it were to double, as it can and must, this would create a further 200,000 jobs," said Mr Ronchi.

Follow Up:
Italian environment ministry, tel: +39 06 57 22 55 80.

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